Opposed to Manchester City this Wednesday evening, PSG can take revenge five years after a double confrontation lost in the quarter-finals (2-2, 0-1). A trauma for the Parisian club, too messy on the ground, with the failed tactical bet of Laurent Blanc.
Before passing the obstacle of the quarter-finals of the Champions League in the last two years and playing this Wednesday in a semi-final first leg against Manchester City (9 p.m. on RMC Sport), PSG has wasted many cartridges that could have sealed a little earlier his return to the last European square. One of the most symbolic is undoubtedly the unfortunate double confrontation against the Skyblues in April 2016 (2-2 at the Park, 0-1 in Manchester). The exit of the Parisians, facing a club owned by the Emirati rival, had sealed the fate of Laurent Blanc, after 180 minutes full of regrets.
The 3-5-2 out of the hat
More than a player or an action, it is often a game system that comes to mind when discussing the clash between PSG and City: the 3-5-2. In an unfavorable waiver after an uncontrolled first leg (2-2), the capital club absolutely had to score at the Etihad Stadium.
Deprived of Marco Verratti as well as of Blaise Matuidi and David Luiz (both suspended), Laurent Blanc tried a game of poker. Exit the usual 4-3-3, the “President” put all his chips on a 3-5-2 with a defense made up of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and … Serge Aurier. With this tactical bet, Blanc hoped to overwhelm City’s flanks to supply Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani with crosses. A fiasco. Despite control of the ball (64% possession), PSG’s offensive play remained sterile except for a few set pieces.
Returned to 4-3-3 with Marquinhos in sentry, the start of a long series, after the injury of Thiago Motta, PSG ended up cracking, punished by a curled shot from Kevin de Bruyne (76th). At a press conference, “Ibra” was quick to ignite the tactics proposed by his coach.
“In the first half we played with a new system and what had to happen happened, railed the Swede. The second half was better, when we went back to our usual tactics, but we gave them both matches. “
A frustrating first leg
If the PSG may have “given” this return match to the Cityzens, he gave with certainty the first round, at the Parc des Princes. This April 7, 2016, the Skyblues folded, folded, but did not break in front of the Parisian waves.
If “Ibra” had not missed a penalty (14th), sent a header to the post (61st) and missed a few more opportunities, the debate on the 3-5-2 return might not have existed. Certainly the Swede scored, but he especially took advantage of a monumental blunder from Fernando (42nd). In the end, Adrien Rabiot’s goal (59th) sounded like a meager reward after so many chances.
Opposite, Manuel Pellegrini’s men had chosen a more surgical approach to punish Parisian ball losses, under the leadership of the poison Fernandinho. The Brazilian signed an assist for De Bruyne after a recovery (38th). Then, he interrupted the dangerous ping-pong game between Thiago Silva and Serge Aurier at six meters to deceive Kevin Trapp (72nd).
Aurier, failed exit
In the Parisian workforce, Serge Aurier is the symbol of Laurent Blanc’s two tactical bets. The “President” brought the Ivorian side out of the murky waters in which he had drowned after a surrealist Periscope live. Suspended six weeks, he seems doomed to play in the CFA until the end of the season.
But Aurier will suddenly switch from amateur fields to C1 games when White offers him a return in the form of tenure in the first leg. Right side, he made 45 good first minutes before sinking, offering the equalizer to Fernandinho. On the return, to compensate for the absence of David Luiz, it is the Ivorian who will occupy the last position of the experimental three defense of Laurent Blanc. Without success, without influence.
The twilight of the “President”
If there was one club against which Qata would closely monitor the performance of “his” PSG, it was Manchester City. Owned by the United Arab Emirates, rival and strategic enemy at the time, the English club was more than an opponent on a football pitch. The defeat, accompanied by the pale copy returned to the return match, undoubtedly sealed the fate of Laurent Blanc. Like “Ibra”, Kevin De Bruyne had lit the Parisian tactics after the match: “Paris, apart from passing the ball in defense … We were not in danger.”
Even a fresh extension therefore did not save the “President” from the Doha ax. Not even the reassuring words of Nasser Al-Khelaïfi at the final whistle. “We signed with the coach, we have confidence in him. We will think about how to improve the team”, projected the president of PSG about his future ex-coach.
Five years later, and two coaches later, Mauricio Pochettino is responsible for erasing the old memory of 2016 from Parisian memories.